Top Ten Highest Selling Songs

Music, like coffee, is an experience to be savored, it is a cup of magic. It is a personal experience that is often hard to express! Each of us has our unique emotional response to music. These can be based on our memories, the vibe of the song, and the artists themselves. That is what makes listening to music so soulful and special. 

Image of Headphones and coffee

For example, some people find that music helps them relax and de-stress. While others find that it energises them and helps them focus. Still, others find that music can evoke strong emotions, such as sadness, joy, or nostalgia. Ultimately, the way that we experience music reflects our personalities and experiences. 

Music For Every Mood 

For some people, music is the magic dust that keeps life sane and sanctified. It is always there, literally, and figuratively, running in the background. There is a song for every mood and every situation. Some of us even have playlists aptly named for ease of access, such as "Pick-me-Up Beats" to get us out of a slump at work, "Lull Me to Sleep" to help us relax, "Romantic Melodies" to set the mood, "Break-Up Mashup" to help us get over a breakup, "Gym Beats" to pump us up, and the list goes on! 

However, since we each take away something different from each song, there is no right or wrong in our interpretation of a piece of music. The songs on my "Dance" playlist may not even be in your favourites! That is what makes those chart-toppers that appeal to everyone so special. 

Music To My Ears and Yours! 

While we all agree that everyone savours music differently, some songs are universally loved. These are the kind of songs that you listen to and then automatically hit the "repeat" button.  And not surprisingly, the entire world seems to feel that way as well.

These are the songs that go on to set records in sales or online hits. These are the songs that often feature in every customised playlist in your music folder! And these songs go on to become timeless classics. Songs that generations will love with just as much fervor as the audience of its time. 

Top 10 Highest-Grossing Songs Before the Internet Era 

Superhit songs make their creators rich because of their reach and popularity. Before the internet broke down the distance barrier, releasing an album or a single worldwide meant releasing it in a few hotspots around the world. India was late to become one of these places. 

The earnings of a song were based on how many records it sold: vinyl, then cassettes, and then CDs. For those born in the digital era, these physical modes of song delivery may seem "prehistoric." This is what makes these top ten songs even more special. They rocked the world even when there was no internet to take them to remote corners of the globe. 

  1. White Christmas - Bing Crosby 

This wonderful holiday melody tops the list, with an estimated 50 million copies sold. 

Bing Crosby gave a soulful rendition of this poignant and melancholic carol on December 25, 1941. The timing was significant, given the recent attack on Pearl Harbor just a few weeks earlier. American servicemen stationed abroad quickly embraced the song. It evoked feelings of nostalgia, longing, and a yearning for a more peaceful era.

Christmas poster of Bing Crosby

Irving Berlin, a Russian-born Jewish immigrant who did not personally observe Christmas, wrote this beloved carol. However, his composition resonated deeply with people from all walks of life. 

Over the years, many artists have covered this iconic song, offering their unique interpretations. From Bob Marley to Stiff Little Fingers, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, U2, Elvis Presley, and Gwen Stefani. A diverse range of musicians have embraced the opportunity to lend their voices to this timeless melody.  

2. Something About the Way You Look Tonight & Candle in the Wind - Elton John 

Elton John's 26th album, The Big Picture, featured the song "Something About the Way You Look Tonight." Released as a double-A side single with "Candle in the Wind." The latter was a tribute to Princess Diana, who had died in August of that year. The single sold a whopping 33 million copies. 

Elton Johns poster

In the UK the double-A side single featuring "Candle in the Wind 1997" achieved extraordinary success, selling over 4,930,000 copies. This remarkable feat made the song the best-selling single in the history of the UK. "Something About the Way You Look Tonight" and "Candle in the Wind 1997" had been charted separately on the adult contemporary chart in the US.

While the tribute to Princess Diana reached the impressive position of number 2 on this chart, "Something About the Way You Look Tonight" claimed the top spot for 10 consecutive weeks in late 1997 and early 1998, solidifying its remarkable success. 

3. Silent Night - Bing Crosby

Bing Crosby's rendition of "Silent Night" has sold an estimated 30 million copies since its release. It is one of the best-selling Christmas singles of all time. 

Bing Crosby Silent Night

The beloved carol  "Silent Night" came into existence as "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht" in a small Austrian village in 1818. 

In 1859, an American Episcopal priest translated the song into English, further spreading its message of peace and serenity. Fast forward to 1928, when iconic Bing Crosby recorded his rendition of "Silent Night." The song's timeless appeal and profound meaning have resonated with countless artists throughout the years, leading to its enduring popularity.  "Silent Night" claimed the top spot on the list of Britain's "most recorded Christmas songs of all time," solidifying its place as a cherished holiday classic.

4. Rock Around the Clock - Bill Haley & His Comets 


Rock Around the Clock - Bill Haley & His Comets

This number was originally considered second best and was included as the B-Side to the record with the song "Thirteen Women". Decca Records was more enthusiastic about "Thirteen Women" than "Rock Around the Clock." The record, released in April 1954 and did not make much of a splash until a few months later.  Actor Glenn Ford's son flipped to the B-side of the record and hooked to the rocking number!

The actor was to star in a movie and this song was the perfect for the opening credits. "Rock Around the Clock" became a sensational hit and went on to sell 25 million copies.

5. I Will Always Love You - Whitney Houston

You just cannot say the title of this song without hearing Whitney Houston's powerful vocals in the background! The song stands in fifth position having sold 20 million copies. It took the world by storm as the original soundtrack for the 1992 movie The Bodyguard. Interestingly, however, Dolly Parton, the renowned musician, and songwriter, penned the song and initially released it as a country chart-topper in 1974.

 I Will Always Love You - Whitney Houston

During a memorable guest appearance on The Kelly Clarkson Show, Dolly Parton recounted the time she received a phone call from Kevin Costner expressing his interest in using the song for his movie The Bodyguard, co-starring the late Whitney Houston. Parton graciously granted permission, but she never hear back. One day, she heard Whitney Houston's rendition of the song on the radio and was blown away. In another interview, Parton revealed that even Elvis Presley had expressed interest in covering the iconic ballad.

6. It's Now or Never - Elvis Presley 

Next on our hit list is Elvis Presley's "It's Now or Never" which was released in 1960. It sold 20 million copies and is one of the best-selling singles of all time.  

It's Now or Never - Elvis Presley

The song takes inspiration from two earlier compositions. The first is Mario Lanzo's rendition of the Italian song "O Sole Mio", and the second is Tony Martin's 1949 hit number "There's No Tomorrow". The story goes thus: Elvis Presley was stationed with the army in Germany in 1950 where he heard Tony Martin's song. He discussed his idea to combine Tony Martin's song and Lanzo's, with his music producer, who then returned to New York. The music producer hired Aaron Schroeder and Wally Gold to write the lyrics, which they did in less than half an hour! Little did they realize the song that they spent the least time on, would be their biggest hit!

7. We Are The World - USA for Africa 

We Are The World which was released in 1985 was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie to get financial aid for the starving multitude in Africa. Harry Belafonte initiated the idea for the song "We Are the World" in 1985, inspired by the success of the British-Irish collective Band-Aid's song "Do they know it's Christmas?". Quincy Jones came on board to produce the song and sent out an invite to all popular pop stars to be part of this charity single. 

 We Are The World - USA for Africa

The lineup of artists who lent their voices to the iconic anthem "We Are the World" was illustrious and diverse. Country legends such as Kenny Rogers and Willie Nelson, alongside beloved pop icons like Smokey Robinson, Tina Turner, and Paul Simon, participated. Musical giants such as Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, and Bob Dylan also contributed their immense talent. Of course, the track would not be complete without the presence of Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, whose collaboration and vision brought this powerful song to life. 

Upon its release, the song raised $60 million for African famine relief. 

8. If I Didn't Care - The Ink Spots 


If I Didn't Care - The Ink Spots

The Ink Spots were a popular all-black group in the 1930s and 1940s. They had a unique format for their songs, which began with Charlie Fuqua playing an introductory melody on his guitar. Bill Kenny then took the lead vocals, delivering the entire song with his impressive high tenor voice, while the others provided harmonious backing vocals.

After Kenny finished his rendition, Hoppy Jones stepped in to take over the vocal duties. As the group's bass singer, Jones skilfully blended speaking and singing throughout the song, reciting the lyrics that Kenny had just sung. After Jones' captivating recitation, Kenny returned to sing another verse, concluding the record. 

The group stuck to this meticulously structured approach for a decade, and it proved to be a winning formula, resulting in a series of hit songs. Their first successful example of this formula was "If I Didn't Care," which not only followed the strict framework but also achieved remarkable commercial success, selling 19 million copies.

9. Yes Sir, I Can Boogie - Baccara 


If I Didn't Care - The Ink Spots

In 1977, the Spanish vocal duo Baccara took the music scene by storm with their sensational hit single "Yes Sir, I Can Boogie." Frank Dostal and Rolf Soja wrote this infectious track, and Soja himself expertly produced it. The track swiftly captured the hearts of audiences throughout Europe.

Behind the vibrant performance were Mayte Mateos and Maria Mendiola, the talented Spanish flamenco dancers who made up the dynamic duo known as Baccara. The duo achieved a remarkable feat when the song soared to the number one position on the esteemed UK Singles Chart, securing its place as their sole chart-topping single in the United Kingdom. The song has sold 18 million copies worldwide. 

10. My Heart Will Go On - Celine Dion 

Rounding up the Top Ten is Celine Dion's passionate bittersweet ballad "My Heart Will Go On," which sold 18 million copies. The song featured as the original soundtrack of James Cameron's blockbuster hit Titanic. 

My Heart Will Go On - Celine Dion

Cameron was not keen to have a "pop" song running through the end credits of his period flick, but he was pressured by the studio to include one. James Horner, the music composer, began composing a song for the end credits without even being asked! He recruited songwriter Will Jennings to write the lyrics. When the music and lyrics were ready, they reached out to Celine Dion, who was not interested in doing a soundtrack for a movie just then. However, after listening to Horner's scratch version and with encouragement from her manager, Dion came on board. She nailed the song in a single take! 

In this internet era, it is all about hits and views online. Nobody goes out and buys a CD anymore. Views run into billions, and stars turn into superstars overnight. Viral videos, hook steps, and music reels play a considerable part in making a song a superhit. The big numbers and bigger bucks involved with the music scene today cannot take away from the wonder that record players and CD players spun out just a few decades ago. You need to move with the times, but not away from the roots.